On any Friday night, there are a few dozen Aurora cops on the street, patrolling, answering calls, and doing cop stuff.
It seems that any of them able to get to a car rushed last week to a Friday night football game in north Aurora. Probably many, or most, expected the worst.
Aurora has seen the worst. It didn’t happen — this time.
What did happen is that near the end of the third quarter of the game between Rangeview and Vista PEAK Prep high schools, skirmishes broke out under the decades-old stands adjacent to Hinkley High School. It’s unclear still whether fighting spread to the stands themselves, or whether kids and parents were just immediately trying to see fighting that erupted into the parking lot.
Sentinel Sports Editor Courtney Oakes was covering the game, from across the field. He said it looked like people were suddenly running up and down the stands and from side to side, possibly to see something that coaches on the field and players were oblivious to. At that moment, Rangeview was losing big 31-0.
Oakes said it was impossible to discern what was happening, but something was definitely happening.
Someone called 911 to report shots fired, police said later, adding that they never saw any evidence of that.
But the call of a shooting at a high school football game immediately brought pretty much every available officer on wheels across the city racing to the stadium.
Officials canceled the remainder of the game abruptly, sending people home. Spectators there said it was nerve racking and chaotic.
No one was shot, or seriously injured, police said afterward.
One man, later identified as Raukeen Horton, 31, was arrested and now faces charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction.
And one juvenile at the game, unidentified, was arrested after police discovered that person had a gun. Police have released few details about that part of the night, but whoever it is faces charges of possession of a handgun by a juvenile, third-degree assault and possession of a large-capacity ammunition.
It was a loaded gun. An anomaly?
ESPN and USA Today last year both published stories about the rising problem of gun violence at high school sporting events. In his 2022 story “‘A quiet phenomenon’: The rise of gun violence at school sports,” ESPN reporter Michael A. Fletcher talked to students and educators about the increasing times these iconic events have turned into nightmares.
Since 1970, 285 people have been injured or killed by shootings at high -school sporting events, almost all of those in just the last five years, according to data compiled by K-12 School Shooting Database. There were 37 school sporting-event shootings last year, and 38 shootings in 2021.
Don’t ask why. Why not?
Aurora has been the site of two school shootings in the past few years. In both cases, high-school skirmish stuff, usually settled with tough talk and fists, were settled with guns, police say.
The last three Aurora police chiefs have pleaded with parents to connect with and rein in their kids, and especially their kids’ guns.
“Kids don’t have respect for authority or each other,” Aurora interim police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement this week. “Luckily, the young man that had a handgun did not get a chance to use it, but we’ve seen too many times where that’s not the case. Parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing.”
About two years ago, when parents rushed first to Aurora Central High School after a shooting in a nearby park, and then Hinkley High School, after a parking lot shooting there, then Police Chief Vanessa Wilson pleaded with parents to dive into their kids’ lives to stop increasing gun violence.
And here we are, two years later, now counting the number of teens shot, often by other teens, as if they were cases of the flu.
At least some Denver schools have had enough. At a recent Northfield High School football game at the Evie Dennis Campus in Denver, spectators had to pass through metal detectors and undergo some kind of search to get in.
It’s unclear what Cherry Creek and Aurora Public school districts might do, but after last Friday, doing nothing is just an invitation for the worst to actually happen.
“We are reviewing our game management protocols to ensure all future events can be enjoyed by district patrons,” APS spokesperson Corey Christiansen said in a statement. “We ask for our community’s support in preventing future disruptions to our games.”
No doubt. But given the increasing proclivity of kids across the region, and across the country, to carry and use guns, including at high school sporting events, and given the lack of gun laws and parent intervention to stop it, something else needs to be done to prevent the worst.
Of course, the expense, trouble and inconvenience of school districts vastly increasing security at football and basketball games seems like a ridiculous answer. But give the too-possible alternative, is there a compelling reason not to secure these fields and gyms?
Get out your wallets, Aurora. This surely won’t come cheap.
But there are thousands of Aurora kids and their parents who not only deeply enjoy these athletics and the benefits they offer, endless kids parley their athleticism into college educations, depending on the games not being called due to violence, or worse.
High school football and basketball should be life-altering, not life-threatening.
It’s time to secure these events.